While most varsity athletes in our area were getting ready for the fall season by splashing in the pool or reading a book at the beach, the Rye High Boys’ Soccer team was taking on Westchester’s toughest teams in the summer heat and humidity.
By Mitch Silver
While most varsity athletes in our area were getting ready for the fall season by splashing in the pool or reading a book at the beach, the Rye High Boys’ Soccer team was taking on Westchester’s toughest teams in the summer heat and humidity. After a month spent traveling up to Shrub Oak and back for games in the ninth annual Lakeland Summer League, the Garnets entered the playoffs as the top seed with a 5-1-1 record.
Taking on eighth-ranked Mahopac under the lights July 24, Coach Sal Curella and his boys knew that second-seed Lakeland, third-seed Byram Hills, and fourth-seed Yorktown had all won their games easily. The Indians were a different story, holding the Garnets to a scoreless draw at halftime.
“Mahopac did a nice job packing it in and eliminating any type of offensive build up,” the coach said after the game. “I made a lot of changes at halftime — adjusting the formation and getting some offensive players involved more — and we were able to put a goal on the scoreboard in the first 10 minutes. Not a great showing, but something to work on going forward.”
Go forward they did. Two nights later, Rye took the field in the semi-finals against a Yorktown team they’d tied 1-1 earlier in the summer. Coach Curella was happy to welcome back four players who’d been away at a club soccer tournament, and he’d need every one.
“Yorktown was a back-and-forth game which ended in a thrilling manner. The Huskers scored late in the second half, leaving us with only 10 minutes to pull off a comeback. Captain Tommy Gates came up big when we needed it most, with an incredible goal from just outside the six-yard box.”
Instead of playing an overtime period, the game went directly to a penalty kick shootout. Rye goalie Gregor Sanford made two huge stops before Rye’s Sean Traynor netted the game-winner.
The players knew Lakeland would be hard to beat in the championship game. Not only were the Hornets playing at home, they handed Rye its only loss of the summer, a 2-0 shutout, earlier in the month.
After Yorktown defeated Byram Hills 2-1 earlier in the evening to take third place for the summer, the two top two teams took the field. And Coach Curella had a close-up view.
“Lakeland came at us hard, and early on we were a bit intimated. Capitalizing on our slow start, Matias Prando scored for them in the 20th minute. Happily, a new Rye team showed up after halftime, the one we’d seen for the majority of the summer.”
The Garnets pressured Lakeland all over the field in the second half and finally scored the equalizer off a set piece with seven minutes left in the game.
“Carl Friedrich swung a nicely cultured ball into the box, and newcomer Floris Van Beurden, our outside right, put it in the top corner.”
With the title on the line, the game again would be decided by penalty kicks. “We got all the way to the eighth shooter in the sudden death phase of the shootout and, unfortunately, we missed.”
The coach and the team remain upbeat. “Overall, we accomplished so much since last summer. We had an incredible fall season, with state rankings and victories over top teams like Byram Hills. We took the Winter Indoor League Championship and now we’re runner-up in the Lakeland Summer League. Most importantly, we’re building a team-first attitude and creating a culture of success.”
During what’s left of August the Garnets will winnow their 36 summer-league players down to the 20 or so who’ll make the roster when school is back in session.
“The fall will bring us another challenge,” the coach said, “and I know these boys will be ready for it. Rye’s Varsity Boys’ Soccer players are ready to write their story.”